What is BK Virus?
BK Virus is a virus that many people are exposed to in their normal life. It does not cause any problems for people with healthy immune systems because they are able to fight it off without getting sick. But, in kidney transplant patients, this virus can become active and cause problems to the transplanted kidney.
How did I get it?
BK virus was probably already present in your body before the transplant. Most of people in the United States are carriers of BK. You were probably exposed at some point in your life but did not know it.
Is it contagious? Do I need to worry about spreading it to other people?
There is a good chance that the people around you have already been exposed. You do not need to worry about spreading it to other people.
What are the symptoms of BK virus?
Generally, there are no symptoms of BK virus.
How do you know I have it?
BK virus is detected by a blood test. At the University of Wisconsin Hospital, we screen all kidney transplant patients for the first year after transplant for the virus. If your transplant coordinator is worried about BK she may have you do a blood test for this at your local lab.
What do I need to do about it? Can you treat it?
Your doctor or transplant coordinator may decrease the dose of your immunosuppression (anti-rejection) medicines. This will help your own body fight the BK virus. Sometimes, we may give you medicine to treat the BK virus.
How will you know it’s gone?
If you have been diagnosed with the BK virus, your coordinator will check your blood often to see if the virus is going away or getting stronger.
If I have BK, will my kidney be ok?
Although the BK virus can affect your transplant, your doctor and coordinator will watch the virus closely. We most often catch BK in the blood before it causes damage to the new kidney. Your doctor and coordinator will discuss the treatment with you and try to stop the virus from hurting the new kidney.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 01/21/2012
Copyright © 01/21/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6837
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